subject line "Congratulations, I may Already be a Nitwit" was too funny not to recycle

Dear Ms. Snark,

I may have done a very nitwitted thing. I found an agent who takes submissions in my genre on the Publisher's Marketplace website. In that agent's listing, it said that queries could be e-mailed to the agent, or submitted by snail mail with an SASE (the listing didn't indicate a preference). I sent an e-query over a month ago. I haven't heard anything back yet.

Today, I was reading a book "Guide to Literary Agents", which listed the same agent. The book said, however, "No e-queries." Perhaps this is why I haven't heard anything back yet from the agent.

I have only been able to find about 20 agents who accept submissions for the genre that I'm writing in, so I really can't afford to lose any potential agent opportunities. What should I do?

1) Send an e-mail apologizing for sending an e-query, and asking if I can still send him a snail-mail query. No.

2) Send him a snail-mail query and explain my e-mail faux pas in the query letter. No.

3) Do nothing, hope that the Publisher's Marketplace listing was correct and the book listing was not, and hope that he is just very busy and might still get back to me.

4) Give up all hopes of this agent ever accepting a query from me, as I have royally f*%ked up my chances with him.

(what no more options?)

On a related question, how long is it acceptable to wait for an agent to respond to your query before sending them a "status check" letter? I have several agents who haven't responded to the query letter I sent them over a month ago (and I did remember to include SASEs).

Thanks for the help.

In answer to 1-4 you send your query in the mail with an SASE but you do not not not start out apologizing. NO. You just query.

Generally Publishers Marketplace is more current than anything in book form. We submit the info to the Writers Guides almost 15 months before they are published. Lots changes in that amount of time.

To answer the second question:
If the agent's website doesn't tell you what the time frame is (30 days on a query, 90 on a partial etc) I'd give them six weeks. I'm pretty nice to the people who nudge me on a query at six weeks cause really, I should have responded. Things happen, people get behind but if the query didn't get there, you don't want to wait too long to find out.

What makes me nuts are people who ask after a week on queries, or a month on FULL manuscripts, particularly since I think I'm pretty clear what my time frame is. That's the sign of someone who thinks the world revolves around them, or is a basic illiterate about directions, or worse, thinks the directions are for everyone BUT them. yuckola in the extreme.

You don't qualify for nitwittery on this one but keep trying...the week is young.


Anonymous said...

I should have mentioned this when
I sent you the first e-mail...the writer's guide says he has a 3-week turnaround on query letters. I checked his website, but there is no info there, literally...the site is under construction (this is an actual, established agency that has sales...I checked into that as soon as I saw that they had no functional website)

Jim Oglethorpe said...

Sometimes the listings say different things. My agent says "no email queries" in several publications but didn't on a web listing. This happens frequently. I think the bottom line is that if you write a fantastic query and the project is something that the agent is excited about and can sell--they will get back to you no matter how your query reaches them.

Elektra said...

Jim, agents who don't accept E-queriea may well delete anything with 'query' in the subject line, sight unseen. It may say "Hi, this is O.J. Simpson, here's my tell-all life story, HOW I KILLED HER AND GOT AWAY" and the agent would never know.

Kiskadee said...

Many who accept equeries simply don't respond if they are not interested. If you really want the security of a yes/no answer, you should go the mail-with-SASE route.

delilah said...

If you haven't heard back six weeks after sending an equery - even if you've sent it to one of the lazy-ass agents (Miss Snark's term for this type) who states in a listing that they only respond if interested - I'd send a snail query as if it were my first effort to contact the agency. That way you've covered your bases if there is a discrepancy among the listings. What's the worst that can happen?

Jim Oglethorpe said...

You're right in most cases. But if an agent has listings that contradict (and many seem to), they will not pass on an interesting query just because it comes via email. It's nothing to feel like a nitwit about. At least this has been my experience. But you are right that it's probably the exception, not the rule.

Sheila said...

An agent I queried says"query letter only" on the agency website, but has "query and first chapter" on Publisher's Marketplace, and no submission info in the guide books.
I went with the website - in Anon.'s case, just go with what you've got.

lizzie26 said...

LOL about OJ, Electra!

Anyway, agents are too busy and have too many queries each day to remember one certain person's query (unless they're interested). As Miss Snark said, send the query by snail mail with SASE and don't mention anything about the email.

Marva said...

Can I assume that after a query, a decent time waiting, a query on the query, and still nothing that I'm just not going to get an answer?

Original Query: February 9th
Followup: April 30th

I'd rather get a 'no thanks' than not hear anything at all. The agent in question has email query okay on the website.

Anonymous said...

Hey there Jim, just a thought: I've noticed that many agencies accepting e-queries include this caveat in their guidelines: they will not respond at all to e-queries unless they want to see more. So, if you e-query, you have to be prepared for that level of uncertainty. ("Did they nix it, or did they never get it?")

Querying again by snail mail could at least settle the issue for you. Here's hoping it's *good* news!

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday (June 12) I received back my SASE from an agent I had snail-mail queried on February 18. But she was nice enough to enclose a personal signed note apologizing for the long delay! That's something. I guess.

Then there was the different agent whose web site stated a 48-hour response time on emails. I waited 30 days and re-queried. After 60 MORE days (I'd given up), he responded and requested a partial.

It's like Outback Steakhouse: "No rules, just write."

Feisty said...

At one point I did an email query blitz and sent out probably 50 queries to agents. These were all people who said they took email queries.

I'll bet that I didn't hear back but from about maybe 10 of them. I don't know what happened to the other 40. They passed but didn't bother to tell me? They deleted my email? They never received it?

If you ask for email queries, the least you can do is email back. It's just common courtesy, which is often lacking in business.

I've also had partial requests that apparently went into the same big black hole, never to be seen or heard from again. Even after followups. It really changed my thoughts about agents. I don't have nearly the respect for them that I used to. You excluded, Miss Snark, because you obviously get back to people.

Jim Oglethorpe said...

Yes! I second "Here's hoping for good news". It's a huge accomplishment just to have a query ready to go and a project to back it up (at least for moi!). We must celebrate the small victories and thank goodness that Miss Snark can guide us through the crazy "etiquette" dilemmas.

Marva--don't know but I'd say "no answer is an answer." But you never know. I hate it when my stuff disappears into a black hole.

In an unrelated question--have any authors ever had a publisher request draft chapters mid-way through the publishing process? For example, if ms is due on November 1, they want three draft chapters by July 1? WTH? What is this about? Is this typical? Clue me in people!

oj said...

Why can't you people just stop picking on me? Why? Why? Why?

-KIS ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey, all. I've sent both e and snail queries. I'm wondering, in all sincerity of the writer's quest, what, really, is the relative value of equeries? When I send them, all I feel that's different from snail is the relief of my impatience ("There! It's there. I know it's there. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Weee!). Seriously. No sarcasm.

Paper gives a chance to re-read. Brilliant white with high-quality black arial is both elegant and professional looking. A paper query is written on the same medium we are hawking. The extra days in the mail allow editing of the MS (whoops! damn. fourteen re-reads and there's STILL a "who's" instead of a "whose.")

Obviously, I'm here, on a blog. Email is great, and I don't think that attachments are anything to fear; they require little more defensive mental energy than a typical D.C. rush hour commute. But those agents who don't take them may understand something about patience; paper may have a side-value as a filter against the rush-rush trance we get into when we think we've got a MS in the can.

Lorra said...

For the agents who state in their listing that no response to an equery equals no interest, how hard would it be to set up an automatic response that tells the sender that the query has arrived?

That way, if we don't receive any further response, we'll know that it's NOT because they never got our query.

But I guess what I'm really wondering is: how can an agent be so rude? I don't care how busy they believe they are - we're all crazy busy - they have time to click a "no thanks" response. Whatever happened to the concept of civility?

Elektra said...

Last anonymous--with sample pages and an SASE, queries cost me a dollar a piece, not counting paper, ink, and envelopes. E-queries cost me nothing. That's a big incentive.

kis said...


How many agents are you querying? Hell, between my husband and me, we make maybe 30k a year (and that's Canadian!), and if I queried every agent in the States who reps my genre, it would still only amount to about a hundred bucks tops. That's including those $6 packages with 50 sample pages.

Personally, I'd rather send it the old-fashioned way, with a SASE. Even if the SASE doesn't arrive back, I know it's gotta be out there somewhere stuck to the bottom of some postal worker's shoe, not obliterated in some freak power surge or something.

Of course, I'm waiting for an email reply to a partial I recently sent agent Kristin, and agonizing about whether the email address in my letterhead was correct. Of course, this partial has been cursed from the get-go, so if I hear anything, it will be a miracle. Still, I know I'd feel better if the reply was enroute in a good ol' SASE--which may or may not have been correctly addressed by me.

Excuse me, I need to open another bottle of wine...

wd ver: xsy the zt. Hmm...

Anonymous said...

Hi Elektra.

Well, you got me on that dollar-per thing. May as well add that a reasonably sized 300-400 page full MS that weighs say 3 pounds is going to be about a $20-$25 investment to print and send, too, where a one-mg acrobat doc is free.

Every small business requires a start-up investment. Have you thought about incorporating yourself? Then, at least, your operating losses can become tax deductions.

anoneditor said...

E-queries cost me nothing. That's a big incentive.

And that's a big reason why a lot of agents & editors don't care for them. It results in a lot of unprofessional, untargeted "blast" querying -- because it's free, and it doesn't take more than a few seconds. It increases the number of queries overall, and there is a marked decrease in quality.

I don't even accept equeries -- it's stated quite clearly on my company website that we do not accept such queries, yet I receive dozens of them daily. 99% of them do not even fall under the genre in which I acquire, and we often discover that the same query has been sent to all editors on the floor, regardless of their specialties (fiction, nonfiction, romance, mystery, science fiction, health, etc.). I use the preview function on Outlook to check the contents of email (as some queriers go the deceptive route of tacking on an ambiguous subject line), and delete all queries unread beyond a cursory glance to identify what the email is. I don't care how good an email query might be -- if you don't have the professional courtesy or good sense to take 5 seconds to look at the FAQ on my company website before emailing me, you are not someone I want to deal with.

This is not to tar everyone who queries by email (particularly to equery-friendly companies) with one brush -- but it does make it easier for people to lazily "spam" agents & editors with cut & paste queries without even doing the most basic research into submission guidelines or identifying the interests/strengths of their future business partners.

Xopher said...

Clearly, kis, the Gods of Verification are telling you that MDMA (ecstasy) will cure your acne. Not terribly useful information, since there are other things that will, and they aren't Schedule One.

My Verification Word is 'snugy'. I'm taking this as a very hopeful sign.

Xopher said...

But now it's 'rafdkfu'! WOW. British flyboys, here I come!

Jeb said...

""Have you thought about incorporating yourself? Then, at least, your operating losses can become tax deductions."

In Canada, it's not necessary to incorporate to lose money for the tax man. You simply file a self-employed earnings statement with your tax return, and be prepared (if requested) to show that you're really TRYING to make a profit by your writing.

At that point, the post-office and Kinko's receipts you claimed on your taxes serve a second function: they're proof that you're actively marketing your work (something you don't get quite as convincingly from an e-query that may never have been received or read).

As a recovering accountant (who lapses annually at tax time, but only in the company of friends and family), I want the hard paper copy of query letters and receipts, mainly so I can slap them down in front of my evil-minded brethren at the tax dept. at the first hint of a question. But I'd e-query if the dream agent's website specifically stated it preferred that approach.